What’s in a name?

This is a post that has virtually no upside.  At its very best, it will reveal the sometimes peculiar ponderings of my mind.  At its worst, these thoughts, captured on paper, er, uh, memory and pixels, might well offend someone who has embraced the very thing that I find so fascinatingly odd.  But here goes anyway.

I think I was coming of age, (whatever that means) about the time that married couples were beginning to experiment with the idea of hyphenated last names.  Often it seemed to be the woman who did so, with her husband’s last name appearing last, preserving her own maiden name in her identity by including it, preceding a hyphen, which itself preceded her husband’s last name.  You know what I mean, right?  Helen Smith marries Fred Jones, and she walks away from the alter at her wedding as Helen Smith-Jones.

Somewhere along the lines, some of the more progressive couples, I gather, started sharing last names, so that the husband also took on his wife’ maiden name.  In the example above, Fred would forever more, ’till death do he and Helen part, be known as Fred Smith-Jones.

I confess that I have never really understood what this was all about.  Even the most frequent arguments about a career oriented woman keeping her maiden name as a part of her identity has never been all that satisfying or compelling.  It seems to me that the transition to a married name is not one that is all that difficult to make.

Sometime in recent history, the names of the children of these hyphenated couples have also been, well, hyphenated.  This was all brought to my attention today as I watched the preliminary heats of the 50 meter freestyle swimming at the Olympic Games in Beijing.  In sequential heats, two American swimmers were trying (successfully) to advance to the semifinals of this event.  In the first of the two heats, Garrett Weber-Gale was competing.  In the very next heat, Ben Wildman-Tobriner was swimming.

As I was watching this, I starting contemplating this naming phenomena.  Let’s say that at some time in the future, Garrett Weber-Gale has a son.  We’ll call him Greg Weber-Gale.  And let’s say that Ben Wildman-Tobriner has a daughter named Amy Wildman-Tobriner.  You know where I’m going with this don’t you…As fate would have it, these two Olympic swimmers’ children, Greg and Amy, decide to marry.  Oh, what a joyful day, and imagine the swimming abilities of the progeny.  But I digress.  Back to the subject at hand.  Using the naming convention started by their grandparents, we would now have Greg & Amy Wildman-Tobriner-Weber-Gale.

But let’s consider this a little further.  Take the possibility that Garrett Weber-Gale himself marries a girl, who, as luck would have it, is also the offspring of a hyphenated family.  We’ll say that Garrett’s wife’s maiden name is Elizabeth Bowden-Fitzgerald.  Now, given the traditions that have long been established by these families, Garrett’s son is named Greg Bowden-Fitzgerald-Weber-Gale.

And as you might have expected, Ben Wildman-Tobriner also marries a hyphenated girl who we’ll call Rebekah Morrison-Healy.  Their precious daughter’s full name is Amy Morrison-Healy-Wildman-Tobriner.

You guessed it, under this arrangement, I would like to introduce you to the loving young couple, Greg & Amy Morrison-Healy-Wildman-Tobriner-Bowden-Fitzgerald-Weber-Gale.

Even though, the odds are long of something this crazy ever happening, I wonder if any hyphenated couples ever consider the possibility?

What’s in a name?  Well, a lot of punctuation, to start with.


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